Vol. IX No. 30 - Tuesday
July 27 - August 2, 2010



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


NEWS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai in top two “Best Cities”

Sangkhatarn offering sales down this year

Ratchapruek Royal Park to host Mother’s Day celebrations

Cross country trade in the North up

Chiang Mai Mayor looks to the future

Itinerant laborers swept up in crackdown on illegal workers

Fire damages building owned by Thai Massage Association for the Blind

Authorities seizing illegal teak in Mae Hong Son face local opposition

Chiang Mai economy slowly improving

North and South join hands at CMU fair

 

Chiang Mai in top two “Best Cities”

Chiang Mai notables bang the Sabudchai or Victory Drum
at the celebration held at the Chiang Mai Night Safari on July 22.

By Phitsanu Thepthong

Chiang Mai officials and notables celebrated on July 22 at the Chiang Mai Night Safari as the city was voted Second Best City in the world by Travel & Leisure Magazine’s “Worlds Best” reader awards.

Coming in second after Bangkok this year, it is a jump up the ranking from last year when it was number 5. The survey was conducted among the U.S. based magazine’s 16,000 readers online in March of this year, before the political crisis turned violent in Bangkok.

Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra was in New York on Wednesday, July 21 to receive the award. He was accompanied by Sugree Sithiwanitch, the Director of Public Relations Division of Tourism Authority of Thailand, to receive the award for Chiang Mai at the ceremony for which was held this week in the United States.

The Top 10 cities in the World’s Best Award 2010 are Bangkok (90.30 votes); Chiang Mai (89.53), Florence, Italy (89.17), San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (89.17), Rome, Italy (88.60 ), Sydney, Australia(87.99), Buenos Aires, Argentina (87.98), Oaxaca, Mexico (87.78), Barcelona, Spain (87.71) and New York (87.68).

The questionnaire, which was online from December 15 to March 31, covered such issues as sights, culture and the arts, restaurants and food, people, shopping, and value for money.

Attending the celebration here in Chiang Mai were Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization President Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai Mayor Tassanai Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association President Sarawut Saetieo, TAT ‘s Chiang Mai Office Director Chalermsak Suranant, Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce Vice President Suwanna Sirirat, Thai Hotel’s Association (THA), Northern Chapter President Phunat Thanalaopanitch, Chiang Mai Night Safari CEO Dr. Sarawut Srisakul, Thai Lanna Spa Association President Pakin Ployphicha, as well as locals from the area.

After receiving the Award, PAO President Boonlert pointed out that they plan to open up 7 more tourist areas to promotion so as to drive more interest in the city. Chiang Mai Mayor Tassanai added that the municipality and local people are proud of the Award, saying that the City ranked so highly because of its unique Lanna culture, excellent hotels, and unspoiled natural attractions which are Chiang Mai’s charms.

“We need to help preserve our local Lanna culture, tourists come here to see this and it is only available in Chiang Mai. Our goal should be to reach number one in the near future,” the Mayor said.

TAT’s Chiang Mai Office Director Chalermsak told Chiang Mai Mail that the Award shows that Chiang Mai’s popularity is still strong among tourists worldwide and remains good.

“They still are confident about the tourism situation in Thailand as well as Chiang Mai. We did not lobby them at all. Chiang Mai is still a best city for visiting and touring. This maybe because of our unique culture, hotel accommodation, facilities and so on, so they are confident about Chiang Mai. So, it is a must now for Chiang Mai people to keep up the good work and have pride in this prestigious win.”

Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association President Sarawut also told Chiang Mai Mail that he is really pleased with the award as well as the people through the country, “We, in the tourism sector have worked hard since the beginning of this year, and this award is actually the prize and inspiration for us to carry on more promotional work for Chiang Mai tourism in the near future. From early next year, we will work hard to promote tourism to the area, particularly the three most popular festivals of Chiang Mai; the Flower Festival, Loy Kratong, and Songkran. While, during this low tourist season, our association members have suggested to improve and renovate more tourist related businesses, such as the promotion of Chiang Mai Grand Sale 2010,” Sarawut concluded.

THA’s Northern Chapter President Phunut said the annual occupancy rate is normally around 80 percent but this year was worse than ever, especially during the second quarter of this year in April and May when hotel occupancy reached only 10 percent. However, he noted that the rate has increased and has now reached 35 percent which is higher than for this same time last year.

He added that “the most important thing now, it is to promote our Smiling Lanna Thai to foreign tourists and visitors.”

PAO president Boonlert added that the tourism sector wants the Government to consider lifting the Emergency Decree in Chiang Mai, as it is an obstacle for tourism business and operations.

“If the government lifts the Decree, we hope that more visitors from abroad will come to Thailand. Now we have to start up counting from no one ….again,” he remarked.

“As you may know, some travel insurance companies in abroad will not cover those who come to visit the country that is under a State of Emergency,” added the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association President Sarawut.

Sarawut suggested that the Government should lift the Emergency Decree here in Chiang Mai to boost tourism and the travel industry, “In fact, there is nothing serious or sensitive for Chiang Mai at present. Thai people are generous and nice; the past political uprising was a political accident. We need to make tourism to Chiang Mai more attractive again.

 

Sangkhatarn offering sales down this year

Nong Hoi is the site of most of the Sangkhatarn
shops selling offerings for Buddhist merit making.

Supoj Thaimyoj

During the important holy days of Asarnha Bucha and Buddhist Lent, Buddhist faithful make merit by presenting ‘Sangkhatarn’ offerings to Buddhist monks.

This year the holidays fell on July 26 and July 27 when the faithful made merit by going to the temple, listened to the teachings of the Buddha and performed the Wien Tian Ceremony, walking around the temple three times with lighted incense and candles.

Offerings of goods, Sangkhatarn, are then made to the monks at the temple.

Most of the ‘Sangkhatarn’ shops are found in the Nong Hoi fresh market area on the Chiang Mai- Lamphun road. Nutcha Wanitchayawaragul, 41, the shop owner of Wanitcha Sangkhatarn said that during Asarnha Bucha and Buddhist Lent each year, people still make merit, “but there are some changes as customers mostly now buy ready assembled packages. Before, clients bought offerings separately, but now the shops have prepared the all in one offerings in one package and the prices are also cheaper than the separate ones,” Nutcha said.

Nutcha said sales were about 70 to 80 percent of last year’s sales, adding that “the regular customers are mainly the Buddhist monks.”

“During the past years, the sluggish economy and internal political turbulences had resulted in drop of Sangkhatarn sales volumes, but not really much,” she said, and remarked that merit- making is quite normal for Thai people during the important Buddhist days.

“However, it seems that the number of people making merit on their birthdays is decreasing. There seems to be more emphasis on good quality products rather than volume and so people are buying smaller offerings than before,” she concluded.


Ratchapruek Royal Park to host Mother’s Day celebrations

Supoj Thaimyoj

Plans are being laid by the Ratchapruek Royal Park and the Institute for Highland Research and Development to celebrate the auspicious occasion of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s 79th birthday as well as National Mother’s Day at the Park from August 12 to 15 according to Mrs. Tassanee Srimongkol, Ratchapruek Royal Park Director.

Mrs. Tassanee Srimongkol, Director of Ratchapruek Royal Park, announces the plans for Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday.

She added that she had asked government officials, the private sector, students and the general public in Chiang Mai to join in the activities to be held for the Day.

The event is being held to honor HM the Queen on her birthday and to give thanks to her for her kind support in promoting and encouraging Royally initiated projects that benefit the Thai nation as well as her concern for the national forest and environmental issues.

Director Tassanee added that activities will start at 9.00 a.m. and end at 6.00 p.m. with nature walks, a contest to find native Thai plants in the park to win a scholarship, rice planting demonstrations, vegetable growing, contest for imitated insect shape construction, and a costume contest for children dressed as insects.

The exhibition to honor Her Majesty the Queen will be held by the Royal Project Foundation in the park on the celebration days, together with the Queen Sirikit Sericulture Centers, the Foundation of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT) in Chiang Mai, Fai Gaem Mai local textile and technology center, and others.

On Mother’s Day, people are invited to sign a book offering their blessings to Her Majesty the Queen on her birthday, August 12. Students will be allowed in the park free of charge as well. For more information, please contact 053 -114110-5 or visit www.ratchaphruekgarden.com


Cross country trade in the North up

Supoj Thaimyoj

The Chiang Mai Customs Office reported that trade volume is up for this fiscal year for the Northern Customs at Chiang Mai Airport, Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai, Mae Sot in Tak, Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong, Mae Sai, Mae Sarieng in Mae Hong Son, and Thung Chang in Nan.

Charinya Sriprathum, the chief of Customs Control Division reports on the trade surplus in the North.

Consumer products still top the list in exports, worth more than 78 billion baht, according to Charinya Sriprathum, the chief of Customs Control Division, Chiang Mai at the press conference at Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel on July 20.

Imports in the North were over 33 billion baht, leaving a trade surplus of over 44 billion baht.

Exports consisted mainly of consumer products, fuel, oil, IC and soup seasoning while imports consisted mainly of electronic appliances, lens, wire, and fresh produce.

She concluded, noting that the Customs Department of Thailand had collected more than 206 billion baht in revenues from the fiscal year beginning in October of 2009 up to June of 2010; this was 26.46 billion baht lower than the forecasted 233.8 billion baht for that period.


Chiang Mai Mayor looks to the future

Shana Kongmun

A serendipitous meeting on a Nok Air flight with Tassanai Buranupakorn, the Mayor of Chiang Mai, afforded the Chiang Mai Mail the opportunity of interviewing him. “The Mayor flies Nok Air?” was the general question asked upon hearing of the chance encounter.

Mayor Tassanai Buranupakorn, 37 year old native of Chiang Mai, talks about his plans for the future of the city.

“Yes,” he said. “I could use public funds to fly business class, it is allowed. But I am happy to take Nok Air economy. I choose to refuse to fly business class, it saves the city money. Although I am the Mayor I am just a normal person like everyone else, just doing my job.”

Mayor Tassanai Buranupakorn is just 37 years old, a Chiang Mai native, educated locally at Montfort College and Chiang Mai University where he earned a B.A. in Business Administration. He attended Birmingham University in the United Kingdom and obtained a Masters in Economy. Still single, he added that his job takes up most of his free time.

Mayor Tassanai said that he has three main foci as Mayor of Chiang Mai; quality of life, Lanna culture and finally to finish the works already in progress. He felt that these are the three things that need addressing in Chiang Mai.; improving the quality of life for its residents, emphasizing the Lanna culture which makes Chiang Mai and the necessity of completing projects that have been instituted by previous administrations and yet remain unfinished. One such project to finish is the ongoing construction of the new Municipal Building that has been nearly 5 years in the making. “People are calling it the 100 year old building,” he laughed. He added that he hopes to see construction completed by the end of the year.

The Mayor has 15 hazardous waste recycling units installed around the city and plans to add 100 more.

In addressing the quality of life issue, he hopes to tackle the air pollution problem by instructing all public parks to compost all plant waste, adding that the municipality needed to set an example. He was open to the suggestion made to me earlier this year by Jacques Cavin of Natural Agriculture that the municipality no longer requires a large truck for pick up of natural waste and charge for it but that a day be set aside each week for plant waste. He said that the haze in Chiang Mai is one of the biggest problems the City faces but that the municipality’s reach is limited since most of the burning takes place out in the countryside.

He said he has managed to finish three public parks but said he understands the pool at the new Railway Park is “terrible”. There have been problems with the contractor and the City has taken him to Court to get these problems addressed. “We can’t touch the buildings until the case is settled. I just want everyone to understand that I know how terrible it is, but my hands are tied”, he added.

He continued that he would like to add more green spaces to the city and would like to encourage residents to grow their own gardens as well with regular and vertical gardening. Vertical gardening is a popular method of gardening in urban areas with limited space, and uses trellises and hanging baskets to grow flowers and vegetables. Widely used in many European cities, vertical gardening can benefit air quality, help deaden sound and extensively done, can help to reduce temperatures in cities.

He is very enthusiastic about recycling and has 15 hazardous waste recycling bins set up, the bins take such as items as old batteries, cell phones etc and can be found in Kad Suan Kaew, Central Airport and in front of the Municipal building as well as other locations around the city. He said that the City Council originally rejected the plan so he managed to get 15 such stations from the Pollution Control Department for free. It has been such a success that they have now ordered 100 more.

He added that the City has managed to reduce the 320 tons of waste sent daily to the landfill by 20 tons per day since his new policies have been put in place. He hopes to see further reductions as he implements more recycling programs.

He plans on dredging the Canal as well as planting vegetation that will help absorb pollution. He will encourage residents of the area to clean up their areas as well. He hopes the dredging will not only help clean the Canal but help reduce the chance of flooding although he said that currently the reservoir is quite low. Flooding is a concern, he added, with plans to clear the river of plant matter and debris in order to facilitate water flow. In addition to cleaning out the canal he plans on cleaning out the storm drain system in order to enable rainwater to drain faster. Additionally, he has sandbags prepared for the low riverbank areas in case of heavy rains.

Another project he hopes to complete this year is the planned burial of electric cables along Tha Pae and the Night Bazaar. After many years in discussion he said they have the budget allocated for it and plan to begin shortly. This is another such project that has been long in the making and yet never completed.

Public transportation is a major issue and he is in talks with Chiang Mai University to start with two routes and, as budgets permit, to slowly expand the routes into other areas. But he wants to make sure that the first two are as effective as possible. Anything larger than that, he said, would require the authority of the Transport Department and funding from the central government.

“For big projects, I have to get some funding from the central government but I think I shall once the plans prove effective,” he said.

As far as ugly new construction around the city, he said, until he can get the laws changed, he must abide by the current laws and, as long as the new construction is in line with regulations, they must be approved. However, he feels that as part of his commitment to the renewal of Lanna culture in the City, it will be necessary to change the building codes to require more appropriate buildings for the inner city.

The Mayor feels that to promote tourism in Chiang Mai people must re-commit to the local Lanna culture. Loy Kratong and Songkran are two of the biggest cultural draws Chiang Mai offers and he feels that it’s important that tourists learn about them and also understand local Lanna culture.

Mayor Tassanai explains his recycling program to Chiang Mai Mail’s Managing Editor Shana Kongmun and Editor Phitsanu Thepthong.

“Tourists come to Chiang Mai for two reasons,” he said, “the culture and nature. We need to make sure they feel they are in Thailand while they are here.”

To that end, he has asked that Walking Street Market vendors wear traditional Lanna or Hill Tribe clothing and that they sell locally produced items He added that shops on Walking Street have objected to bins but that he has asked all vendors to help provide bins for the visitors. “You can ask them to take your rubbish,” he said, “and they will.”

When asked how he felt about implementing the current Bangkok law to ban elephants on the streets in Chiang Mai he said quite honestly that he felt the stray dog and cat population was a far bigger and more immediate issue that needed addressing.

“Every city in Thailand has rabies,” he added. He realizes that culling is abhorrent to most Thai people so hopes to be able to work together with dog and cat sterilization private organizations in the future. He said the City hopes to be able to provide rabies vaccinations and help with sterilization. He added that people need to be educated about bringing their dogs to public parks and that people need to clean up after their dogs. An uphill task, he admitted.

The Mayor said he will set goals for each year and then accomplish those goals before moving on to the next set of goals. In this way, he feels, the major issues can be tackled in a more organized and comprehensive manner year by year. “If I do a good job and the people are happy with it, they will tell me and I will be re-elected. If I fail, then they will tell me that too.”


Itinerant laborers swept up in crackdown on illegal workers

Some of the immigrant workers waiting for employment at the intersection near the Tesco Lotus, Khamtieng branch. (File Photo : Nopniwat Krailerg)

Nopniwat Krailerg

Chang Puak police detained 20 hilltribes men in a police crackdown on migrant laborers that congregate at the roadside near Tesco Lotus Khamtieng.

Early mornings see many men waiting by the side of the road for day labor, when police approached on July 22 at 9 a.m. many fled the scene. Police detained about 20 men, mostly hill tribe and Tai Yai men. Five men, all from Thailand, were arrested after a urine test showed positive results for yabaa and two men were detained for not having legal permits for work. The other 13 men were all legal migrant workers and were released from the police station.

Local police have been cracking down on illegal migrants believing they help contribute to a higher crime rate and theft.


Fire damages building owned by Thai Massage Association for the Blind

Police and firefighters inspect the scene of the fire that damaged the building
for the Thai Traditional Massage Association for the Blind on July 20.

Nopniwat Krailerg

Fire destroyed a traditional Thai massage parlor run by the Thai Traditional Massage Association of Chiang Mai for the Blind on July 20 on Ratchadamri Road in Chang Puak.

The Association building, run by Ood Kiewthong, President of the Association, was occupied by about 20 blind masseuses at the time of the fire which broke out on the fourth floor in a room that contained the Association’s computers, sound system and refrigerator. All occupants managed to flee the building with no injuries reported. Damages have been estimated at 200,000 baht.

Khun Ood told firefighters, who took about a half an hour to extinguish the blaze, that repairmen had been welding guttering on the roof and that sparks from the welding might be a possible cause of the fire.


Authorities seizing illegal teak in Mae Hong Son face local opposition

Khajohn Boonpath

Khun Yuam District Authorities, Forestry officials and territory volunteer members raided a wood processing factor in Ban Mae Sape on July 23 seizing poached golden teak in Khun Yuam District in Mae Hong Son.

Some of the illegally harvested golden teak found at Khun Yuam in Mae Hong Son.

Three suspects; Krachang Dila, 46, Aroon Thanasarnsap, 41, and Arthit Dila, 42; all were from Tambon Khun Yuam, were charged with poaching after authorities found them with 3 teak logs, and 44 pieces of processed wood.

As the forces attempted to leave the area with the wood, they were blocked by more than 100 local villagers. Boonsom Chusawan, a member of the Mae Hong Son Provincial Administrative Organization for Khun Yuam was brought in to negotiate the release of the authorities’ vehicles but officials were forced to relinquish some of the illegally harvested teak to the villagers in order to leave.


Chiang Mai economy slowly improving

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

The economic status of Chiang Mai has been growing gradually during the first half of this year, according to Suntra Tilakul, the chief of Chiang Mai Provincial Trade and Business Development Office.

Ms. Suntra Tilakul, the chief of Chiang Mai Provincial Trade and Business Development Office reports on the improving economy in Chiang Mai.

She said in the interview with the Chiang Mai Mail on July 22 that during the first six month of 2010, new business registrations have grown by 23 percent. Only 2 percent of businesses had revoked their licenses with authorities when compared to the same period last year.

The top three categories of new businesses registering with the office have been retail sales at 38 percent, construction contractors at 11 percent, real estate at 8 percent and rental equipment for business services at 8 percent.

Last year, there were 1,161 new companies registered with the Office, for the first six months of this year 664 companies have registered she remarked, adding this is 23 percent increase when compared to the same period last year. 223 companies have registered to revoke their business licenses this year which is a 2 percent decrease from last year.

“About 70 percent of the existing 12,000 juristic persons still maintain their operations while 30 percent of them did not submit their financial reports to the authorities. The statistics could indicate that the economic situation in Chiang Mai been improving” she added.

Suntra furthered that the newly set up companies have registered with the Office in increasing numbers during the first half of this year which is increasing by 10 companies each month, especially the lottery tickets sales.

“Lottery sellers are organizing as juristic persons in order to submit their registration with authorities to ask for more quotas of lottery tickets from the Government Lottery Office,” she noted.


North and South join hands at CMU fair

Jittarporn Charasrum

The Chiang Mai Provincial Authority along with Southern provinces from the Andaman coast will hold the first joint fair, “Lanna ways of life, and exposing the Andaman coast,” opening Wednesday, July 28 at Chiang Mai University to promote tourism products and services for Chiang Mai and link the North and South.

Deputy governor Chumphorn Saengmanee announced the new fair to be held July 28 to August 3 at CMU.

On July 23, Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai Chumporn Saengmanee chaired the press conference held at the Chiang Mai City Hall announcing the fair that has been organized by the Chiang Mai Provincial Authority, Chiang Mai Provincial Commerce Office, Chiang Mai Brand Committee, OTOP and SMEs operators, and V-sign Media Co., Ltd.

The fair is held with the aim of promoting the ‘Chiang Mai Brand’ with 375 products and services from 140 operators and to create closer links between Chiang Mai and the Andaman coastal provinces of Trang, Phuket, Phang Nga, Ranong and Krabi.

Deputy Governor Chumphorn notes that the fair should help promote Chiang Mai nationally and abroad. “This is regarded as a way to add more marketing channels for Chiang Mai brand named products and services,” he noted.

Deputy Governor Chumporn added that the tourism fair event will be held at the Payorm grounds of Arts and Cultural Center, Chiang Mai University from July 28 – August 3, 2010, would also help boost the economy and trading. The fair will run daily from 9.30 am. to 9.00 pm, and is expected to draw tourists and residents alike.

“OTOP and SME products from both Lanna and Andaman producers and tourism-related operators will be also on display at the event” he added.

More than 300 booths have been set up for sales, display and promotion of products and services and are predicted to generate more than 10 million baht through the 7 day event.

According to organizers, not only Chiang products but ornaments, pearls, tea, southern sweets and agricultural products, flower and ornamental plants will be offered by the Andaman vendors. Popular Northern entertainers will also be on hand; Nopporn Nakhonping, Eddy, Tu Daranee, Nan Napho, and Kru Ad. Light and sound presentations and “kad mua”, local and traditional morning markets will be also organized there.

Deputy Governor Chumphorn invited everyone to attend the week-long event, which offers activities, demonstrations on handicraft production, woven textile, silverwares, Lanna arts and cultural shows, economy prices merchandises, goods and products on sale.



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